Sunday 13 January 2008
Well, it's a very long time since I last blogged... I thought I'd better say something in case you thought I had been rubbed out by the avenging 'Farce Brothers' after my previous comments about them here. Or perhaps you thought that I had made a new year's resolution to quit pontificating about chess.
Sorry to disappoint you - neither of these things came to pass. It was just that I decided to give chess writing a miss for the duration of the Xmas/New Year holiday in order to recharge my batteries. I did think about writing another of my alphabetical annual reviews of the year: I got as far as 'A is for Anand' (a no-brainer) but couldn't think of anything funny to say... then 'B is for'... boredom. Yes, the creative juices simply failed to flow so it was time to give up on that idea and get back to the mince pies.
Hastings didn't rouse me from hibernation to any great degree. I usually go there on the final day so that I can take photos of likely winners for photos, but that had proved to be a mistake last year. The leaders had decided to draw their games instantly and I missed a couple of them before they had exited the tournament room. Tip to chess photographers: make sure your camera has a really fast shutter speed to catch those ultra-fast last-round draws. I thought I'd fool them this year and go down for Round one (when they'd surely sit at the board long enough for me to get a decent shot). It was pleasant meeting old chess friends as it always is, and there were a few decent games to watch. But the course of the tournament wasn't terribly exciting. Sometimes the new, premier-less Hastings can be good when someone like Belov lights up the Hastings sky with a string of wins, but it was a case of 'Asbestos on Board' this year - a few middle-income GMs intent on a steady little earner.
But today was round one of Corus: the real first day of the chess year, when everyone gets to show off their shiny new January rating for the first time. Unfortunately for me it coincides with a heavy workload and a brisk deadline as I get the February BCM ready so that I can travel to Gibraltar in a week or so's time for the other big January event. I haven't found a really interesting chess story to write about this year yet, but Corus had a goodly helping of surprises, right from the off. I thought about writing a preview of the tournament, but then decided I didn't really have a clue what might happen. Will 2008 be another good year for the more mature players (as 2007 was) or will the Carlsens and Radjabovs finally start to elbow them aside? Who knows? Today's games provide evidence of the latter but it's only a tiny sample. Besides which, as I pointed out in the January BCM editorial, last year's Corus did not provide a reliable indicator of what might happen during the rest of 2007. Aronian, Topalov and Radjabov tied for first place... and all three had a sub-standard year. It turned out to be Ivanchuk, Anand and Kramnik who came out on top by December.
No, great though Corus is as a tournament, I wouldn't read too much into what happens there in terms of who is going to be at the apex of world chess by the end of the year. Anand and Kramnik will probably go careful in Wijk. They don't want to pig out on the hors d'oeuvres because they know they have a substantial main course to find room for later in the year. Tournaments are all right but it is matchplay which really sorts out the men from the boys. Roll on September...